All posts by Gavin Newsom

Let’s get our priorities straight

With the upcoming University of California walkout, we asked our Facebook community recently how the impending UC and CSU cuts were affecting them. The response was overwhelming:

Stephanie from SF State needed only two classes to graduate with her bachelor’s degree. But one of the courses was eliminated – graduation will have to wait until next year.

A mother from the East Bay worried that her daughter couldn’t enroll in a single class she needs and is about to lose her student status, her financial aid, and health insurance.

Sarah from UC Davis saw her tuition increase almost ten percent, while her mother, a state employee, just took a 15 percent pay cut.

UC Berkeley will be eliminating approximately one out of every ten courses this coming year. UC San Francisco will potentially have to reduce their faculty by fourteen percent because of the recent cuts. UCLA has reduced support to research centers by fifty percent. UC Irvine has completely stopped admitting students into their education program.

All across the state, we are choking off opportunity for hundreds of thousands of young Californians to build a better life for themselves and a better future for California.

And it’s our fault. We’ve allowed our system of governance to de-fund and de-prioritize higher education, putting our state’s economic future in jeopardy.

Let me be clear: I favor fully funding the UC system. Cannibalizing our state’s future through cuts to education is the exact opposite of the kind of reform and long-term thinking we need from our leaders in Sacramento.

But the current resource-constrained situation forces us to make difficult choices about our shared priorities. We must protect our environment, provide universal health care and invest in infrastructure development. And therein lies our statewide dilemma.  

We have a system in California that discourages thoughtful budget and financial planning, requiring a two-thirds majority every year to pass a budget that paralyzes our state. We have a complex web of ballot initiatives that further complicates the process.

Walkouts like the one currently planned will become more frequent unless we undertake systemic reforms and truly take California in a new direction.

We need to convene a constitutional convention and get serious about changes to the system. Until we do, we’re jeopardizing our ability to be competitive in the global economy. Preparing our children for success in the 21st century necessitates investment in higher education not cuts to it.

In San Francisco, we have a robust rainy day fund. We drew down on our reserves to make sure not a single teacher in San Francisco was laid off when the recession hit. We created a partnership between SFSU, the school district, and the city to guarantee a college education to every public school 6th grader who wants one. And if their families can’t afford tuition, we help with that too.

We operate with a limited budget in San Francisco, just like the state. But we managed to keep teachers in the classroom and promise every student a chance to go to college.  We didn’t raise taxes – we reformed the budget process and used resources in a smarter way.

It’s time to shake up the system that’s put our state in this mess. We need come together to fundamentally rethink how we govern California.

The Road from Here to Marriage Equality

Today we must turn anger into action.

It’s cold comfort to many that history is moving in the right direction, with five states already on their way to marriage equality. But it’s our job to make sure history moves faster towards equality here in California.

We must redouble our efforts in California to finally win this fight for equal rights. Please, take a moment today and lend your voice to this just cause.

Sign our petition for marriage equality.

Join the tireless efforts of the Courage Campaign and Equality California.

Let’s be respectful. But let’s be clear. We must start changing minds today. I know many of my fellow Californians may initially agree with this ruling, but I ask them to reserve final judgment until they have discussed this decision with someone who will be affected by it.

Please talk to a lesbian or gay family member, neighbor or co-worker and ask them why equality in the eyes of the law is important to every Californian. Please talk to local business leaders who know that this will cost jobs and make California less competitive. Please remember we all know someone who is hurt by this decision today. Please reach out to these friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors and discuss why this decision is wrong for California.

California, at its best, is a beacon of equal rights and equal opportunities. If we want to prosper together, we must respect one another.

That’s why we must resolve to restore marriage equality to all Californians. Let this work start today. Sign our petition and join the efforts of the Courage Campaign and Equality California.  

Scaling San Francisco’s Universal Health Care Program

I’ve been in our nation’s capital this week meeting with Obama Administration officials and Congressional leaders about national health care reform. Everywhere I go, from the White House to the Department of Labor to the U.S. Senate, I get the same question: can San Francisco’s universal health care program, Healthy San Francisco, be scaled?

The answer is yes.  

Truly, one of the strongest aspects of Healthy San Francisco (HSF) is its simplicity. The program allows participants to select their primary care provider from among dozens of local hospitals and clinics, both public and private. Our local system does not require lengthy HMO paperwork and there is no denial of treatment based on pre-existing medical conditions.

A recent study showed that Healthy San Francisco is dramatically less expensive than traditional insurance. And our experience in San Francisco is proving what most American’s already know – it is much less expensive to keep people well than it is to treat their sickness, particularly when so much treatment for uninsured Americans is provided in costly emergency rooms.

There are currently more than 40,000 participants in HSF. We are enrolling approximately 600 new participants every week. We have already enrolled more than half of the previously uninsured San Franciscans and the vast majority will have access to health care by the end of next year.

I believe that administration and congressional leaders understand that we cannot wait for health care reform. Our health care crisis affects every aspect of our society – from making sure every child receives the health care they need to succeed in school, to decreasing the financial burden on business, both large and small, so our economy can get back on track.

I know there is pressure in Washington to wait until the economy improves before we act on health care reform. I faced many of the same pressures when I was working with allies in San Francisco to forge our universal health care delivery system.

But “waiting” in politics usually means never – and we simply cannot afford to wait any longer. The lessons we are learning in San Francisco shows that investing in health and wellness is its own kind of economic stimulus.

The time is now to tackle this problem and I applaud President Obama for promising to sign a national health care reform bill by October. We cannot wait for change – the President needs your help. Sign the petition to support President Obama’s call for health care reform.

One of the key figures leading the charge in Congress is Iowa Senator Tom Harkin. I spoke with Sen. Harkin on my Green 960 radio show this week about the challenges Congress and the administration face and the possibility of using HSF as a model for a national program. You can listen to the show online or via iTunes.

For my part, I was recently made Chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Task Force on Health Care Reform. Cities often have the most pressing health care needs and have had to adapt and innovate in lieu of national health care reform. I am looking forward to working with my fellow Mayor’s to hear what they have learned in their cities and share what we’ve learned in my hometown through Healthy San Francisco.

In the end, the task force will identify urban health care priorities and advise the work of Congress and the Administration to help solve this crucial challenge we all share. As always, please feel free to give me your input and feedback in the comments section below.

Listen to Mayor Newsom’s Green 960 radio show online or subscribe to his weekly policy discussions on iTunes.  Join Mayor Newsom on Facebook. You can also follow him on Twitter.

It’s Official…I am Running for Governor of California

(Well, this seems newsworthy. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

It’s official. Today, I became a candidate for governor because California needs a new direction.

EDITED by Brian: For space. Please see the flip for more.

I hope you will join me as we set out to build a campaign that does more than win an election. Together we can create the kind of campaign that changes California.

If you want to help us get off to a strong start, please contribute here.

In San Francisco, we’re showing what can be accomplished when we stop looking back and start looking for solutions.

We are the first, and still the only, city in America implementing universal health care. We’re proving what you already knew – it is less expensive to keep people well than it is to treat their sicknesses.

Join us and you can help take the fight for excellent and affordable health care to all of California.

Across California, teachers are facing layoff notices; but we are protecting teachers from layoffs, raising test scores and breaking down the barriers to a college education.

Contribute today
and we’ll build the kind of campaign that can force Sacramento to stop arguing about better schools and start creating them.

The unemployment rate in California is soaring. But in San Francisco, the local economy is doing better because we helped attract new industries and new high-wage jobs. We are working together to grow our economy with a local stimulus plan that will put people back to work, starting with environmental initiatives and green-collar job training programs.

In San Francisco, we’ve done all of this while balancing our budgets  – and our bond rating has gone up, thanks to sound fiscal management and a rainy day reserve.

Join us, and we’ll create the kind of state government that stops searching for someone to blame and starts finding solutions.

The truth is, we can’t keep returning to the same old, tired ideas and expect a different result. If we take a new approach, and recognize that we are all in this together, I believe we can put California on a new path toward a better future.

Join us in a new kind of campaign that gives all of us the tools we need to make change. Join us on Facebook, Twitter or at Make your voice heard and help us make real change.

Some of you already know me. You know I am not afraid to stand up and fight for what’s right. From quality health care for everyone to equal rights for all Californians, I will do more than talk about problems – I will work with you to solve them.

We all know California can do better.

Let’s work together
to set a new direction for California.

Join me on Twitter now. I am taking your questions.

San Francisco Expands Green Jobs Program

(A post from Mayor Newsom. As a reminder, elected officials are encouraged to post on Calitics; we’ll do our best to promote them to the front page promptly. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

Every day more San Francisco residents and businesses are signing up for two San Francisco programs that will cut monthly utility bills and help the City meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals. One is SF Energy Watch, which provides technical assistance and financial incentives that pays over half the cost of energy efficiency upgrades to commercial and multifamily properties. The other is GoSolarSF, which, when combined with federal tax credits and state incentives, can reduce the cost of installing a residential solar power system by more than 50 percent.

Edited by Brian for space. See the flip for the rest of the post.

In the past 2 years, 1,500 businesses and multifamily properties have saved over $5.7 million in energy bills through SF Energy Watch. The program has also delivered 6 megawatts (MW) of energy efficiency savings, which in turn reduces the amount of energy generation we need from polluting power plants.  

San Francisco currently has nearly 8 MW of in-City solar power, including the massive installation at Moscone Center. But the real San Francisco solar gold rush came when we rolled out GoSolarSF in July 2008. In the first seven months, 640 residents and enterprises had taken advantage of the program’s considerable incentives, applying to install nearly 2 MW of clean, renewable energy — 25 percent of the City’s overall solar portfolio.

All of this activity has been a big boost for companies that provide energy efficiency and solar services in the Bay Area. Because of the way San Francisco has structured these programs; local companies that hire locally benefit the most. SF Energy Watch has helped to sustain and/or expand companies–both service providers and suppliers–and currently supports 150 new and ongoing jobs in this emerging green field.

GoSolarSF has specific bonus incentives for employers who hire new staff through the City’s workforce development program. We have placed dozens of new employees in the local solar industry, and of the 640 projects under GoSolarSF, 83 percent are employing workforce development trainees.

On Tuesday of this week I introduced a resolution that will expand the SF Energy Watch program by nearly $4 million. The money for SF Energy Watch comes from California’s Public Goods Charge, a fund for renewable energy and energy efficiency that you pay into with a percentage of every utility bill.

These additional funds will allow the companies that provide energy efficiency services to add an additional 30 new employees on top of the 150 already employed.

SF Energy Watch and GoSolarSF help build the local economy and develop a skilled local workforce for the exploding green tech industry. But most importantly, these jobs are sustainable. They are not based on a single project, so when completed, the jobs do not disappear. Instead, these programs are open-ended, and in the case of GoSolarSF, supported by city legislation that helps feed the process. And I can see a time coming shortly when residential and commercial energy efficiency will be required by local or even statewide mandates.

On a final related note, last September I announced the Mayor’s Solar Founders’ Circle. This initiative served to inject an important new element in our solar efforts: providing free energy efficiency audits together with solar assessments for any business or non-profit in the City that wants it. This “efficiency first” approach is the smartest path to cost savings when planning to go solar.  Energy efficiency improvements to a property will decrease the size of the solar array needed to cut utility bills.

Listen to Mayor Newsom’s Green 960 radio show online or subscribe to his weekly policy discussions on iTunes.  Join Mayor Newsom on Facebook. You can also follow him on Twitter.

A Conversation About Expanding Health Care Access

For the past few months I have been holding town hall forums across California and no matter where I go, the issue of health care is front and center. These concerns are getting more pronounced and more passionate as the weeks wear on and unemployment continues to rise. People are losing their employer-based health care and COBRA is a temporary and expensive stopgap measure that is stressing already maxed-out family budgets.

The need for bold programs addressing the health care crisis was brought into focus by a new UC Berkeley report showing that more than 500,000 Californians have lost their health care since the start of the recession.

In the past five years, we have worked hard to provide universal health care in San Francisco through our Healthy San Francisco program. We have now enrolled over 38,000 of our city’s estimated 60,000 uninsured. It’s a great start but there is still much work to do here in San Francisco and across California as the new UC Berkeley report clearly lays out.

On my Green 960 radio show this week I talked with Lloyd Dean, the head of Catholic Healthcare West, Mitch Katz, Director of San Francisco Department of Public Health and Tangerine Brigham, Director of Healthy San Francisco about how to bring the “Healthy SF” model to other cities and towns throughout California.

As we discuss on the show, a critical next step for any city or town looking to replicate Healthy SF is to start organizing their community health clinics. Community clinics have historically provided services to uninsured and underserved populations. It’s important for any health care effort at the local, state or federal level to include these crucial providers.

I hope you will listen to the show and let us know your thoughts and suggestions in the comment section as we work to create better health care service here and universal health care across California. As the President and Congress move to reform the health care system in Washington – the time is now to let your voice be heard.

Listen to Mayor Newsom’s Green 960 radio show online or subscribe to his weekly policy discussions on iTunes.  Join Mayor Newsom on Facebook. You can also follow him on Twitter.

The California Healthcare Mess – Getting It Right Versus Getting It Done

(elected’s diaries always go to the front. plus this one is very pertinent to our ongoing discussion of the health care deal. – promoted by Julia Rosen)

The Governor and Assembly Speaker have emerged from negotiations with a healthcare plan that needs to be sent back for major reconstructive surgery.

The plan has some very good elements – such as preventing insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, a long-overdue expansion of children’s healthcare coverage and, potentially, the creation of the largest purchasing pool in the health insurance market outside of the federal government.

But the proposal has major flaws that must be fixed before it has a chance of final approval by California voters.

The first problem: there is not nearly enough cost control. Under the proposal, almost all Californians would have to buy health insurance – but there are not sufficient guarantees that the insurance polices are going to be affordable. There will be direct subsidies for families making up to 2.5 times the federal poverty level, or $51,625 for a family of four. There will be tax breaks and a buying pool for families making between 2.5 times the poverty level and four times the poverty level, which is $82,600 for a family of four. But here in San Francisco, and in most California cities, a family of four making $83,000 is hardly wealthy. To require these families to buy a product without sufficient guarantees that this product is affordable is not sound policy.

Another unacceptable risk: not enough protections against “dumping.” This plan needs real barriers to prevent big companies that hire low-wage workers (like WalMart) from merely pushing the healthcare burden onto taxpayers.

Yet another flaw: the plan is unclear about how it will provide sufficient coverage to undocumented workers. How can we even be talking about a “universal” plan that could leave out millions of people? The plan needs to create a way to cover everyone working in California regardless of immigration status – perhaps with more support for the county health systems that are now the healthcare providers of last resort.

It is certainly true that expanding the pool of people with health insurance will create savings. And making sure most Californians have preventative care is both a giant step forward and a significant cost control. But even these two important improvements are still not enough. We are still going to be burdened with a system that wastes billions of dollars on unnecessary overhead and bureaucracy.

And that’s the important and unanswered question with this proposal – does this plan get us closer to a sensible Single Payer system or does it take us farther away?

We are now implementing a universal healthcare system in San Francisco that achieves affordable and quality care largely by expanding our network of public hospitals and clinics. This care is affordable because the city itself acts in most cases as the “Single Payer.” We don’t waste up to 33% in insurance company overhead because there is no insurance company. And profits that would go to insurance companies can be invested in better care.

This kind of direct access to care and a Single Payer system is a model that will work in California and ultimately the rest of the nation.

I, for one, am not opposed to interim steps on our way to Single Payer. We all need to understand that building a workable Single Payer system will take time. But I want us to keep moving in the right direction. There is a compelling argument that the purchasing pool created under this proposal will be a first step toward Single Payer.

If correct, that’s a strong argument in favor of the plan. But I’m not convinced that this plan, as currently drafted, is moving us toward our ultimate goal of affordable and quality care for everyone.